26 July, 2010

What's Happening to Our Girls?

What's Happening To Our Girls? by Maggie Hamilton

I put this book on hold at the library after I heard Maggie Hamilton on a talk back radio station. She was actually talking about her new book What's Happening to Our Boys? and as the mother of a boy about to hit that "tween" age it piqued my interest. When I looked it up at the library, it wasn't yet in circulation, but Girls was. Now my daughter is only 4, but I figure it's never to young to start. Apparently this is what advertisers think also!

Hamilton's book was in turn terrifying and reassuring. It looks at the pressures on our girls today - how their world is so different from the one even I grew up in and the challenges they face in a media saturated world. From the deliberate targeting of advertisers, to the influence of social networking sites such as FaceBook, the lack of "down time", being available to peers 24/7 through mobile phones, the desire to fit in, be cool, dress right, look right, listen to the right music. And it all starts so much younger than it use to. It also examines the dangers our older girls expose themselves to through binge drinking, drugs, raunchy photos taken on phones or by friends.

The positive thing is we can help our girls identify and navigate these pitfalls. It's all about openness, talking with your child from a young age, keeping the communication channels open and monitoring their use of technology. I have long subscribed to the belief that I am my child's parent first and their friend second. It is my job to protect them as much as possible, either through monitoring their activities or teaching them the skills to handle tough situations. I hope I manage to convey to them that they can always come and tell about things and to know that I will always help.

I did have to through out the book remind myself it was specifically targeted at girls. I'm sure many of the issues raised are also affecting boys. I'm looking forward to reading What's happening to our Boys and seeing what the similarities and differences are. As I said before, I highly recommend this for anyone who is the parent or carer of a girl.